Bjoern Werner has been exceptional all year.
The word “prospect” conjures up different images, but it mostly speaks of potential. The 2013 NFL draft class isn’t short on quality defensive linemen, so this isn’t a ranking of the best available players at each position.
Teams will take chances everywhere, banking on a player’s potential and having confidence in their coaching staff to develop that promise to its fullest extent.
Technical ability remains important, but if a defensive lineman is a dominant and intimidating athlete, they will always get noticed—even when lacking in technique or experience.
Read on for the five scariest defensive line prospects in this year’s class, in every sense of that definition.
Damontre Moore's entire college career has been productive.
Transitioning from a pass-rushing OLB to a defensive end, Moore stepped up his game and emerged as the best rush end in this year’s class.
At 6'4 and 250 pounds, Moore has a good first step that automatically gives him an edge. Although he isn’t the scariest prospect in terms of freakish athletic ability, Moore has exceptional awareness of the play and it’s that attribute that shows how scary a proposition he is.
That first step gives him the power to close the distance between himself and the quarterback, a distance that he erases quicker than almost anyone in the college game.
Moore registered a sack in all but three games this year, which shows how effective he is.
His determination gets him there and makes him incredibly difficult to stop. He sheds blocks and picks holes like a running back and has the ability to make an immediate impact in the NFL.
His technique needs some work against run blockers, and he won’t be able to rely on power as much as at the college level. However, he’s a safe prospect that has the added benefit of being an intimidating force along the line.
Kawann Short faced a lot of double-teams this year, but still had a great season.
Kawann Short has been one of the most disruptive forces in college football over the last few years. His stats boast 186 tackles, 19.5 sacks and 49 tackles for a loss. Not only that, but he blocked eight kicks, with four coming this year alone.
What sets Short apart from the other linemen in the draft is his versatility. He has the skill set to operate as a nose tackle or a defensive tackle in a 4-3 scheme and still be productive.
At 315 pounds, Short is very strong and uses his legs well to anchor his position. This has led to a lot of opposing teams assigning two players to him in order to get him moved back. Nevertheless, Short still found the holes and disrupted the passing lane, which shows how much talent he has.
His talent was never in doubt, but his commitment has been lacking at times. Sometimes he looks off balance, as if he’s relying on his athleticism to see him through the play without having to focus too much on his technique.
That makes him an even scarier prospect, though. If Short can align his natural ability with his technique, he’ll be just as effective at the next level.
Star Lotulelei has everything a GM wants in a defensive tackle.
A 320-pound DT who is light on his feet and changes direction like a linebacker is a scary proposition. It also sounds a bit too good to be true.
Star Lotulelei is all of those things, plus a little bit more.
Using the word “elite” about a college prospect when referencing the NFL is a dangerous game, but Lotulelei’s combination of strength, size and quickness immediately brings that word to mind.
He has great burst off the line, catching offensive linemen out of position and giving himself an instant advantage. His bull-rush is an effective weapon and he keeps his shoulders square to the play so he doesn’t get turned easily.
His impact is currently much greater in the run game as he doesn’t have many pass-rushing moves, but it’s exciting to think what sort of athlete he could become with the benefit of NFL coaching.
This extends to his attitude, as well. Lotulelei has also been known to take plays off, especially when the play moves away from him. He needs to learn to play to the whistle at the next level, or teams will exploit him.
Nevertheless, he has the skill set to force teams to respect him as a threat, even before playing an NFL game. That’s an impressive start.
Bjoern Werner was a unanimous All-American this year.
Bjoern Werner already has everything in place to make a difference in the NFL. He’s an absolute force, a brilliant pass-rusher who is strong against the run and already generating comparisons to Chris long.
Werner had 13 sacks and 18 tackles for loss this year, dominating the ACC despite a constant array of double-teams thrown his way. Werner was a unanimous All-American and stayed injury free when his fellow defensive ends at Florida State went down all around him.
Werner explodes off the snap and uses his hands well to get away from blocks and maintain momentum. He also has a strong bull-rush, as well as the strength to drive players into the backfield and disrupt the play.
He is a complete 4-3 defensive end, but it would be unwise to try and make him anything else. He doesn’t have the motor to play OLB in a 3-4 scheme and sometimes struggles to put together a complete game.
If he can just work on his motor a little bit more, Werner will be a Pro Bowler for many years to come. Other than that, he’s ready. Put him the NFL and watch him make his mark.
He’s not as good as the four players who preceded him; let’s get that out of the way first. He’s raw with a capital “R” and it’s still a complete unknown whether he has the football knowledge to take in an NFL playbook.
However, of all the defensive prospects in this year’s draft class, Hunt is the one who possesses the intangibles that are so tempting for a GM.
He’s 6’8” and 277 pounds, also running the 40-yard dash in 4.74 seconds, via NFLDraftScout.com. He battered Fresno State’s offense into submission in the Hawaii Bowl, basically all by himself. Any defensive player who can dominate a ball game like that is an insane opponent.
In the first half alone, Hunt had three tackles for loss, two sacks, forced two fumbles and a safety. Players looked genuinely scared of him, which is a huge bonus for a defensive coordinator.
On top of that, the hits he delivers to quarterbacks are ferocious to the point of being ridiculous. Any QB who takes a hit from Hunt knows exactly where he is on the next play. Once a player gets into the mind of his opponent, he’s already halfway to beating him.
Hunt’s performance in the bowl game will see his stock rise, but it’s important to remember that he needs a lot of work. He’s not a first-round pick like the players mentioned before.
He has poor instincts, poor hands and poor lateral quickness. His college stats reflect this, and he had just 31 tackles this year. He isn’t a Day 1 starter and hasn’t played enough football to rely on his natural ability to get by while he learns the league.
He’s worth a pick, though, and his stock could rise further after the combine. If he can learn to use his hands to get off blocks, he’ll be an even more frightening prospect.